Authors note: This is a characterization of my second play-through party, the future character interactions with known NPC's are AU.
Also note that my second play-through part was made up from my retired first party, so they all started out at level 30-ish.

Prologue: Demon in the Dark

The fire crackled unnervingly in the pitch black atmosphere of the Dark Forest; every time the wood popped Daren's eyes shifted to check the surroundings and Panwa's grip tightened on her shirt. This was the third night they had spent in the Dark Forest and it seemed like every time they let down their guard, some terrible beast sprung upon them.

Panwa was a young woman with short black hair and dark brown eyes, her stature was small and her face held a stoney expression. She looked up at her vassal, a tall brown haired man of massive build and spoke. "Do not worry yourself overmuch, Daren, they have not bested us yet." She patted Daren's left pauldron, seemingly trying to comfort him, but her serious expression made the motion near pointless.

Daren smiled widely down at his princess and let his massive shoulders droop a little. "Nor shall they ever, milady." He did not feel anymore relaxed, but the action perhaps would alleviate the Princess' concerns. The hoplite then looked up the third man in their party and cleared his throat deliberately. "Ser Orin?" the massive man peeped tentatively.

Orin was the eldest in the three person group, a gray haired shogun with an intimidating aura. The man seemed to be contemplating the ground before he glanced up at Daren, his posture relaxed, black eyes gleaming. "Yes, boy?" His old voice carried across the campsite, powerful, but at the same time welcoming.

The gold-plated man fidgeted in his place, seemingly reluctant to speak his mind. "... Well-" He started off shakily, but before he could get out another word Panwa's tiny voice rang in.

"Why are we here, Orin? What are we looking for?"

The old General's bushy eyebrows arched up as he smiled genially at the young pair. "My, Daren, I didn't know you knew ventriloquism!" Orin chuckled as he stretched his arms behind his head.

Daren frowned as if he had been chided and glanced down at his princess, who did not return his glance but continued to stare expectantly at the old warrior. "Well?" She persisted, her hands clenched in her lap in quiet impatience. The elder man regarded the girls pestering with a chilling glare and continued to stretch out his muscles silently. Panwa opened her mouth to speak again, but before she could do so a heavy hand rested on her small shoulder.

The girl looked up to see Daren shaking his head at her, he knew better than to pester the man when he wished not to speak.

The clearing became quiet after the fruitless exchange and they all went back to their previous activities, that is to say, sitting around. It wasn't to long after that however that Daren glanced up to find Orin staring at a spot between the trees that surrounded them. The hoplite squeezed Panwa's shoulder and quietly reached for his shield.
A flash of red and white streaked out from the trees like a bolt, Daren lifted his shield just in time to deflect the creature, surprised to hear the distinct pang of metal against metal rather than the usual feral scrabble. The gold-clad man scrambled to his feet, deliberately stepping in front of Panwa. He looked over his towering shield just in time to watch the creatures feathered tail slither up into the tree canopy.
It wasn't half a moment after the creature disappeared that Orin shot forward, his long blade sliding effortlessly through the massive tree-trunk. The tree tipped dangerously toward the campsite and an oddly human noise came from it as it fell; not long after the noise did the red, feathered creature drop out of the tree like a stone, landing with a terrible groan.

Orin took no time to stride over to the oddly humanoid creature and stepped firmly on its chest, pointing his wicked blade at the creature massive demonic face. He looked at it curiously for a moment before muttering "Gru?"

Panwa disregarded Orin's utterance and twisted her face into a disgusted expression as she looked upon the thing that had attacked them; it had a large, red, lumpy face with jutting yellow teeth and bulging eyes. She stepped forward, past Daren, to get a better look at the demon. It seemed to be trying to recapture its lost breath, which was no doubt difficult with a heavy foot on its bare chest.
"What is i-" Panwa stopped suddenly when she caught notice of the half visible human face in the creatures mouth, she took half a pace back just as the man-beast brought his naked arm into the great gaping maw. A piercing whistle caused Daren and Panwa to flinch, but Orin looked around expectantly, carelessly trailing his blade away from the offenders face.

The masked man slithered out from under-foot just as a massive birds talons swooped inches from the Shogun's face; the old warrior stumbled only slightly, but that was just enough to allow the wild man time enough to regain his lost spear. Orin raised his blade again, but the offender was far quicker and pinned the old man to the ground, the attackers crude spear pressed harshly against his neck. "HOW YOU KNOW GRU?" For the first time the man spoke, or rather bellowed, his voiced strained with rage.
Orin's brow knitted as he peered into the masks maw; he knew that face. "Irab-" a gleam of gold smashed against the wild-mans exposed body, its thick spikes penetrating the offenders skin.
The masked man's body crumpled helplessly to the ground, his oversized mask rolling off his head with the impact. The man curled and writhed as he clutched at the gaping wounds and broken rips, his pained grunts and groans stifled by his stubborn will.

Orin scrambled over to the man, taking his face firmly in hand. The intruder had a long face with unevenly cropped black hair, across his face was a thick, ugly scar that trailed over a clearly blind eye. The old General's face drooped in a sad expression as he released the mans face. "Irabog... What... Happened to you?" The wild man's wicked glare quickly turned into an expression of pained surprise.

"S.. Nn!" The man grunted loudly and clenched a particularly bad wound, Orin's mournful expression quickly turned stern as he looked to his other party members. Daren looked on the pair with apparent confusion, his bloody shield held slack in his grip. Behind him, Panwa had captured the massive red bird by its long, feathered neck.
Orin took to his feet. "Panwa, heal the boy, now. We are going back to the ship, Irabog has much to tell me."
And with that, Orin left the clearing to scout the path ahead, leaving the party to seep in their confusion.